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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under. I'm Alex Malone and I'll be covering the final stage around Adelaide's city streets as Tom-Jelte Slagter looks to secure his first WorldTour stage race victory. The 90km street circuit will provide spectators will ample opportunity to watch the action as the 20-lap race unfolds, bringing a remarkable 15th edition of the TDU to a close. If it comes down to a bunch sprint, expect the Lotto Belisol train to launch André Greipel to his third victory of the week.
Good morning and welcome to the final stage of the 2013 Tour Down Under. It's another perfect day here in Adelaide and the locals have come out in force to see the conclusion to the 15th edition of the WorldTour race.
It's a day for the sprinters and with the general classification all but secure for race leader Tom-Jelte Slagter, it will be up to the Blanco team to ensure the ochre jersey remains safe until crossing the finish line.
The 90km race around Elder Park may seem like just another criterium but this is still a WorldTour race. The People's Choice Classsic, held as a prelude to TDU, may have been more about pride and gaining confidence than the actual result but today is serious business.
We are not too far away from the start and the conditions are ideal. The temperature is sitting at a mild 20 degrees and there's only a slight breeze.
Plenty of teams have missed out on banking a result this week and today is the final opportunity before most ship out and return to Europe. Some of the teams will however, get another chance in just a couple of weeks at Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia.
This stage counts towards the general classification so there is a chance previous tour leader Geraint Thomas (Sky) could steal the show. It is however, unlikely any of the GC contenders will impact the race too heavily but the final spot on the overall podium is still up for grabs with just a few seconds separating third through to ninth-place.
Here's a quick run-down of the general classification as it stands.
1. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Blanco16:35:33
2. Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar0:00:13
3. Ben Hermans (Bel) Radioshack Leopard0:00:25
4. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Euskaltel Euskadi0:00:28
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling0:00:29
6. Tiago Machado (Por) Radioshack Leopard
7. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Euskaltel Euskadi0:00:32
8. Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Blanco
10. Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) FDJ0:00:37
Intermediate sprints will be held at the start/finish line on laps 8 and 12 and the results may see some minor changes in the GC standings. The sprint classification is still up for grabs and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) should have a good chance in taking another prize home: the Jayco Sprints jersey - if he wins the stage.
1Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Blanco41 pts
2Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar37
3Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Merida34
4André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol30
5Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling29
6Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC28
7Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida24
8Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana23
9Mark Renshaw (Aus) Blanco22
10Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ21
The start has been delayed slightly but the race should be underway shortly.
We might have to just wait a little while longer. The stage start has been moved back to 1330 local time.
Should Greipel win today (and you'd be brave to back against him), then it will be his 100th victory as a professional. #tdu
@SantosTDU_Live Sun, 27th Jan 2013 02:40:41
In case the team that has dominated the sprints this week need some additional motivation.
The riders are on the start line ahead of the 20-lap race. The street circuit is 4.5km long with a long straight run into the finish line.
With bonus seconds available at each of the intermediate sprints the question is whether teams are willing to ride today as a mere formality, with a bunch sprint at the finale or will some teams go looking for precious seconds?
The race is underway and the bunch has entered the bottom u-turn corner. All together for the moment.
Three riders looking to get away early with one more coming across.
Those four riders are cresting the KOM hill. There's no points on offer this lap. There are two Skoda KOM's today, on lap 10 and 15.
The Blanco team may have a few objectives today – apart from protecting Slagter. The team has a more than capable sprinter in the form of Mark Renshaw and if the team wants to finish the week on a high note, it has Graeme Brown, Jack Bobridge, David Tanner and the rest to put him in the best position to challenge for the win.
There's actually five riders in that move now. Calvin Watson (UniSA), Laurent Didier (RadioShack), Juraj Sagan (Cannondale), Frantisek Rabon (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi). They have opened up a 20-second lead.
Going back to the objective of the Blanco team now. The sprints are not the only other objective for the day. There's also the possibility Bobridge could regain the lead in the King of the Mounatins classification – if he's given some freedome to do so. Bobridge has ridden attentively all week but has just missed that little bit of lucky needed to infiltrate the right breakaway.
This is what the KOM classification looks like at the start.
1Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar22 pts
2Jack Bobridge (Aus) Blanco20
3Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling16
4Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge16
5Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar16
6Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Blanco14
7José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar12
8Damien Howson (Aus) UNI SA - Australia10
9Jordan Kerby (Aus) UNI SA - Australia10
10George Bennett (NZl) Radioshack Leopard8
Ah yes, Jens Voigt (RadioShack Leopard) has now joined the move but the bunch isn't letting them go far. Blanco and Sky are riding at the front.
Sky may be looking to bring back this break before the first intermediate sprint. Geraint Thomas isn't going to lie down so easily today. He could make his way onto the overall classification podium.
The race is on lap 3 and has just gone over Montefiore Hill - the location for the Skoda KOM today.
Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM) has joined the leading group as Bernie Eisel (Sky) takes up his usual spot at the front of the bunch. The gap is barely 15 seconds.
Calvin Watson (UniSA) is having a great week at the Tour Down Under. He's been in the day-long breakaway on three occasions and involved in numerous others.
It appears the move could be over soon. There's little more than 10 seconds between the bunch and break. Sky have the peloton under control and strung out.
The bunch have entered the start of the fifth lap with Eisel and Ian Stannard taking up the front two positions. Bobridge is sitting just behind the two Sky riders.
Bobridge is only a few points behind current KOM leader Javier Moreno (Movistar) and with two chances for points today, Bobridge could take back the jersey he wore heading up Old Willunga Hill yesterday.
Bobridge's placement at the front of the bunch suggests team management may have other ideas of him today. The KOM jersey may have to wait for another year.
Bobridge is now on the front to set the pace. It doesn't look like he'll be doing any sprints today - for the KOM points that is.
Graeme Brown in riding behind Bobridge at the moment. If Sky have ideas about sprinting for intermediate sprints, his job will be to out-kick Geraint Thomas for the maximum 3-second bonus. Brown beat Thomas on two occasions on Stage 4. Thomas was hunting the final one-second bonus as Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Damien Howson (UniSA) had already taken the first two spots - from their two-man breakaway.
A possible winner for today?
Andy Schleck (RadioShack Leopard) needed a bike change. He'll be doing some interval work to get back in contact with the bunch. You can't take a lap out today.
The break has been pulled back but more riders are trying to get away. Watson is still pushing on.
Marczynski (Vacansoleil) tried to go alone but the bunch is all together. The next lap will be for the intermediate sprint points. Can Geraint Thomas do it?
Ian Stannard and Bernie Eisel will attempt to keep the pace very high before trying to get Thomas a few bonus seconds.
Those two have done the majority of the work so far, riding at a casual speed of more than 47km/h. The bunch receives the bell to signify the intermediate sprint is coming up next...
The bunch is now on lap 8 of 20. The sprint is at the end of this lap with another on lap 15.
Blanco riders have amassed near the front along with Lampre-Merida. They have Pietropolli in the top-10 and could move up if he gets involved in this sprint.
Still five Sky riders on the front right now.
Here comes the sprint...
That was extremely close but it looked like Thomas got the maximum points.
Official results from the Jayco Sprint #1:
1. Geraint Thomas (Sky)
2. Wilco Kelderman (Blanco)
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
Thomas is now sitting in fourth overall on the road. He has moved in front of Ion Izagirre (Euskaltel).
A group of four are trying to get away now. George Bennett was in that move until nearly dropping it around a corner. He's back in the bunch now.
The bunch is on lap 10 now. They are approaching the first KOM. The new four-man group did not contest the points. They have continued to work together.
The speed of the bunch seems to be causing some problems for a few riders. The twisting course is proving a little too technical for some.
That group haven't made a huge impact. They managed to clean up the first KOM points but only sit approximately 50m in front of the Sky-lead bunch. The official results are:
1. Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
2. Tomas Marczynski (Vacansoleil)
3. Alan Marangoni (Cannondale)
Tomas Marczynski (Vacansoleil) has now left them all behind
Marczynski has a 10-second gap but with the average speed still in excess of 46km/h, he won't last long.
Sky will be starting to wind it up again soon. The final intermediate sprint is not far away. The bunch will sprint at the end of the next lap (12).
All together again as Stannard and Eisel continue to set the tempo. Thomas is looking to move onto the podium with this next sprint.
Few orange jerseys getting into the mix. Izagirre already got shunted from fourth overall at the last sprint. He will want to reverse that this time.
On the straight now as the sprint opens up.
That was a seriously fast lap. 51km/h average.
Again riders looking to use the slowing after the sprint to get away.
Thomas' third-place in the Jayco Sprint #2 moved him into third-overall. That's two positions he has moved by contesting the intermediate sprints.
Here are the official results from the sprint:
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
2. Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel)
3. Geraint Thomas (Sky)
Just to re-cap the sprint points and bonuses. Points are 5,3,2 for first three across the line and bonus seconds are 3,2,1 for the same order. Thomas has gained four additional seconds with his sprint results.
UniSA continue to be aggressive. Four riders trying to break clear.
The average speed so far has been just under 48km/h. It's no surprise that groups are struggling to get clear. That hasn't stopped Jordan Kerby from giving it a go.
Kerby went solo on stage 1 at this year's race and earned the first KOM jersey and also picked up the most aggressive rider award.
He's been joined by Martin Kohler (BMC) and Blel Kadri (Ag2r).
Bobridge has just made it back into the bunch after being seen amongst the cars for quite a while. He won't have much time for resting until moving back to the front. He's got the KOM jersey on today, which is on loan from Moreno. Moreno is in the Sprint jersey, which is on loan from Tom-Jelte Slagter - who leads the overall classification and sprint competition. Get it?
The three away were not interested in the KOM points. Official results from the Skoda KOM:
1. Martin Kohler (BMC)
2. Jordan Kerby (UniSA)
3. Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale)
The bunch is on lap 15 now and has around 15km remaining. These three will be given a little more time off the front before the bunch starts to prepare for the real sprint.
With no more KOM points available all Javier Moreno (Movistar) needs to do is cross the line. He's also in second overall on GC and cannot lose that position - as long as he finishes with the bunch and doesn't lose any time.
Those three have about 13 seconds on the bunch.
A few other teams are starting to help out with the chase. Astana and Lotto Belisol with riders at the front.
The leading three are working well together but 10 seconds is no where near enough time to stay away when the bunch begins to reel them in.
Three laps remaining of this 20-lap race.
Saxo-Tinkoff are also assisting up front. Can anyone follow the wheel of Andre Greipel today? Any team with hopes of a stage win cannot allow the Lotto Belisol team to control the lead-out. Not that anyone simply 'allows' a team to do so. The Lotto train has been by far the strongest this week. Sky has made a solid attempt for the intermediates. They've got Chris 'CJ' Sutton who's won here before.
Average speed still over 47km/h as the leading trio enter lap 18.
Correction to that earlier update. The race is on lap 18 so there are now 3 laps remaining.
The gap is beginning to drop as more teams move toward the front of the bunch. Saxo and Astana more than happy to help out.
Kadri suffering in the break. No time to be skipping turns.
The break has been caught. Now it's full gas to the finish.
Crash with two laps to go. Saxo-Tinkoff lose its sprinter Jonathan Cantwell. He's out of it now.
He seems ok but the bunch was really flying through that corner. He will be pretty sore tonight.
Cantwell was also holding a good place in the general classification. He was in 23rd position and nearly the team's best placed rider. Chris Anker Sorensen is in 21st.
One lap to go. Aussie road champion Luke Durbridge takes the bunch through the bottom corner.
Lotto in total control
Andre Greipel wins!